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The Long-Awaited ATHE Recap

Now that I’ve recovered from what was an insane week of travel, here’s a recap of this year’s ATHE conference, my 7th and the 30th to occur, overall.

Day 1 – Thursday

Caught the 10:30 AM bus down to Chicago, and once there, waded through the heat to the Palmer House. Within minutes of stepping into the hotel, I saw Iris and her daughter, Angela, who had just flown from Taiwan and were trying to caffeinate. I checked in, rode up to the 14th floor, put my stuff wherever I could find a spot, and changed outfits for the Dramaturgy Business meeting. So many regulars were there, and a few new faces. Bryan and Carrie led the meeting, and I sat between Natalie and Martine. After, I went upstairs to change clothes again for the keynote and opening reception. Lydia Diamond, the playwright, spoke very well, and they had FREE WINE AND PIZZA at the opening reception, where I got so many hugs from so many folks I hadn’t seen in forever, and of course Iris and I got our conference selfie with red wine, which we’ve been doing since before the word selfie was invented. Also at the reception, I finally met my roommates for the weekend, Kate, Carrie, and Rebecca. I made it an early-ish night to get some writing done, along with Rebecca, while Kate and Carrie went out to a social.

Day 2 – Friday

Early rise for 8 AM panels. We managed to get ready for the day without getting in each other’s way, and I started off what would become the motif of this conference, choosing the wrong panel to go to. I started off at a panel on theatre of the Middle East, which ended up being not so interesting, so I stole out for an Asian theatre panel and just missed Jasmine’s paper. At least I got to say hello to her and meet her new baby. Then, I saw Jill Dolan in the hall, and she asked if I was going to the panel on Pulse, but I decided to go to a directing panel on Brecht instead.

Note to future self: always listen to Jill Dolan.

I got lunch on my own over at Freshii, and then headed to the All-Conference Plenary. I could only stay about half the time though because I needed a break. I ended up skipping the next round of sessions, which in hindsight was a good thing because the one I was planning on going to ended up getting cancelled. So, at 4 PM, I went to the Debs Panel (where I was actually on time for once, go me!) and saw three wonderful dramaturgy presentations. Cindy and co. really do a great job at picking quality panelists – after all, they chose me 7 years ago 😉 Next, I went to a panel on food and performance led by 3 alums of my department, Niccole, Kristen, and Megan, and had a great time there. It ended up being another pack-it-in night. I can’t remember where I had dinner (or if I even had it).

Day 3 – Saturday

Panels started at 8:15, but I was fully attentive at Natalie’s panel, “Babies R Us: Laboring Bodies in Academia,” in which female professors and grad students talked about being a mother and academic at the same time. It was a really warm atmosphere in the room, and it was great to hear personal stories that you wouldn’t normally hear on the day-to-day. After the panel, Natalie was officially finished with her duties at the conference, so we escaped the premises and took a walk to the Chicago Cultural Center, where we saw some really cool art exhibits, and then had lunch at Peach and Green. It was so nice to be able to catch up with her; we talk online all the time, but I hadn’t really gotten to sit down with her since probably Orlando, which was 3 years ago. We got back in time for the 30th anniversary celebration, and I sat with Bryan, Carrie, Cindy, and Rachel as we toasted ATHE with champagne and a delicious layer cake. The rest of the panels that day were a blur – dramaturgy follow up meeting, a panel on theatre and TV, and then a quick lie-down before one of the best parts of every ATHE, DNO (Dramaturg’s Night Out). It was huge this year, and we practically took over Berghoff. The food was really good, and our waiter was hilarious. Thanks to our table pic, I now know who all was there: me, LaRonika, Annalisa, Cindy, Jim, Bryan, Karen Jean, Martine, Brad, two faces I can’t quite make out, and newcomers Jessica, Rachel, and Alex. I sat between Annalisa and Alex and got to know them better over salmon and spaetzle.

Most importantly, that night I sat down and resolved to finish my prelim writing. At 1 AM, in a corner of the 4th floor of the hotel, I passed the 20 page mark, and hit save on my final draft at 1:30 AM. I didn’t carve my name anywhere, but I did take a picture of the spot, which is why there is a random photo of a table on my phone.

So that’s done now.

Day 4 – Sunday

I woke up refreshed, knowing that my prelims were done, and as a reward, skipped the first session of the day for a nice breakfast. We checked out of our room, and then I headed to some acting panels, just for fun. At the first one, we played some games I already knew, plus a few I didn’t (Hi-5 or Death and Move Me). The second acting panel was a little less interactive than the first, but it was led by Margie who is just this electric ball of energy. I capped off my conference with lunch at Le Pain Quotidien with Iris and Angela – a nice bookend to the trip.

There were so many people who were there that I didn’t get to say hi to, but there’s always next year in Vegas.

Just when I was retrieving my bag from the hotel and contemplating whether it had been a successful ATHE or not, THE Holly Hughes (!) appeared out of nowhere and we had a big hug before I stepped out of the Palmer House.

So I think that pretty much cemented the weekend as a successful ATHE.

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Racing Against…

I know I’ve been a little scarce, but my prelims are due on Monday, and I’m leaving for Chicago tomorrow morning for ATHE, then back to Baltimore for a few days to visit family.

I’m finished one, about a paragraph away from finishing the second, and a few pages from finishing the third, and I really didn’t want to have to spend my time at the conference writing.

I think this deserves a Raven gif.

But the episode of The Golden Girls where they propose giving the Palestinians Greenland is on.

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And Lingo Was His Name-O

I like lingo.

Not just the ridiculously easy 1990s game show, but the actual process of lingo.

Allow me to explain.

Last night was the APO Q & A for the new semester’s incoming potentials, and I was there. The lingo was flying all over the place; buzzwords that you just have to know, to know. You know, like nationals, fellowships, toast song, all those things. There’s something about using lingo that makes me feel like an insider, like I know stuff, like I belonged.

This afternoon, I was talking with Syl on Facebook, and I was all ATHE lingo: AAP, pre-con, all those things that bring me good memories but mystify outsiders.

Ya dig?

I dig.

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Notes from a Lazy Saturday/A Story from ATHE

Hey there friends. It’s 11:25 PM here, and I’ve done just about nothing today. I tore up my closet looking for shit, then I cleaned some of it up, so now it’s a cleaner pile of shit, but I still have plenty of other shit that’s been there for a year in a box that I haven’t sorted through. I think I had maybe two meals total, because everything is fattening and I’m doing enough sitting as it is. I did manage to get out of the house to get my mail, and go for seudah shlishit at the Gellers’ new place.

Basically, I’m just kind of waiting for school to start back up again, but I’ve fallen a little bit into the Madison routine: waking up later than I intended to, spending too much time on YouTube and BuzzFeed, eating whatever, postponing exercise (two days running!), think about blogging something and watch Golden Girls reruns at night, which I’m doing right now.

Plus, it’s either super hot or super cold in my apartment, and right now it’s super hot, so I’m going to make this post quick and then adjust the temperature and get into pajamas.

I only gave broad strokes about ATHE, but I actually wanted to remember more details about Joan Lipkin’s awesome devising workshop, and the final performance of the three-hour session. Joan split us up into groups of five. My group consisted of me, Margaret from Nova Scotia, Sarah from Missouri, Christine from San Francisco, and Ron from Georgia. The assignment: share a story of a time when you were disappointed as a child, or you didn’t get something you wanted, then pick one story and make it into a short play. I told the group about six-year-old me, and how I wanted a really pretty cake from the store, with sea animals on it, and my parents refused to get it for me because it was way too expensive. We all shared our stories, and my personal favorite was Margaret’s, about her doll. She had a ragged doll that she slept with every night, until one day when her mother, not knowing its sentimental value, threw it away, devastating her. The doll also comforted her when her parents fought in the next room. When it came time to choose a story, Margaret said, “oh, not mine. It’s so silly,” but the rest of us saw a great story in it, so she reluctantly coalesced.

As soon as we started devising, the ideas flew. I’m usually not the leader in a group setting, or even listened to, but I felt validated when I offered opinions on how it should be. Christine is a director in real life, and I was surprised when she seemed glad to listen to others’ ideas; it was an exercise in devising, but also proved to be an exercise in collaboration and communication. Margaret played herself (a choice she later regretted, but we encouraged her to explore playing her own character). Christine and Ron, as the older couple, played Margaret’s parents, and Sarah, with her lovely red hair and blue and white polka dot dress, was a perfectly darling doll. As for me? I decided to be Margaret’s bedroom door. Inanimate objects suit me well.

We went first, and called our piece Teresa.

We began by entering in a line. I led, walking backwards, and then stood to the side to let Margaret and her doll into the room. Christine, as Margaret’s mother, kissed her on the cheeks, saying in Dutch, “Valtrusten (good night), Margaret,” and closed me. As Margaret sang a Dutch lullaby to herself and her doll, Christine and Ron pantomimed arguing in the background. We repeated the scene twice more, with Sarah getting gradually limper, Christine getting gradually wearier, the fight getting more hostile, and Margaret singing even louder. The next time we repeated the scene, after the goodnight kiss, Christine tapped Sarah on the shoulder, and she followed her out of the room and shut the door. Sarah hid, and then Margaret woke up. Looking around for Teresa, she threw open the door and engaged in this dialogue.

Margaret (to her father): Papa, waar ist Teresa? (beat)

Ron: Valtrusten, Margaret.

Margaret slinks away back to her room, and sings a few lines to herself before curling up to sleep, and the play ends as I creak from the open position (perpendicular to the audience), to closed position (back to the audience).

I think Margaret had it recorded on her phone. I hope it surfaces somewhere, because it was darn good, and I learned some Dutch.

And that’s how I portrayed a dramatic door.

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ATHE 2015: Broad Strokes

How did it get to be August so quickly?

ATHE seems to go by more and more quickly every year, and this time, it was gone in just about a blink of an eye. Probably because I was having so much fun, so here are some broad strokes before it’s completely lost to history and memory.

Day 13 (July 31): Awake a bit later than I wanted, but at least managed to make it to most of the 10:15 AM all-conference plenary, which was just as full of ideas and inspiration as the previous year’s was, after which I probably got something for lunch, somewhere. Then, at 2:15 PM, it was time for my panel, where I presented alongside Teresa as well as two people I didn’t know, Susanne and Michael. It went much better than I thought it would: 11 audience members and a very lively conversation afterwards. I didn’t stumble over my words as much as I thought I was going to, and that reminds me, I need to email Teresa. I had planned to go to another panel immediately after, but instead took a celebratory coffee break with Teresa and her husband Rick. Back at 5:45 for a panel on dramaturgy pedagogy led by LaRonika which included a Skype presenter whose plane got delayed, leaving her stranded in the airport in Toronto. Evening highlight was dinner at 3 Brasseurs with new friends Jenny from Yale and Sylvie, one of this year’s Dramaturgy Debs from Ontario.

Day 14 (August 1): Again, missed the 8:15 AM panel, but made it to the 10 AM all-conference membership meeting, after which was a reprise of my annual pop-in to the Religion and Theatre membership meeting and mad dash to Dramaturgy membership meeting, at which I got elected as a new Member-at-Large with Martine and Megan (yay! a position once again!) and brainstormed ideas for next year’s conference. It was there that I noticed that so many people were missing, and the mood was kind of subdued, but overall, it went better than last year’s meeting in terms of business that got done. Then, at 2:15 PM, I decided to take a break from the constant sitting and go to Joan Lipkin’s movement workshop that was an hour and a half according to the program book but actually went on for three hours (!) but it didn’t matter because it was fantastic. Sometimes you gotta take some chances and miss a panel or two. After a quick cheese sandwich for dinner, it was time for another dramaturgy panel, followed by a reading of a newly-translated French play which was incredibly funny, aided by the talents of Laura and Cindy. And then, of course, DNO, which was at the somewhat-more-expensive-than-I-thought Balsam Inn, where I sat and caught up with Dassia and Martine. Also, back at the hotel, I randomly met Penny Farfan, one of the editors of the book I reviewed in the entry called Ladies Who Write Plays.

Day 15 (August 2): Final day of ATHE 2015 😦 Even though I was dead tired, I managed to make it to a 9:45 AM dramaturgy panel, which Laura thought was “admirable, considering I’d already finished my panel days ago” (thanks Laura!) followed by a panel on Asian performance which lasted a bit too long and then…ATHE was over. I managed to extend it as much as I could by hanging out in the lobby with Bryan while he waited to catch his flight back to Chicago, but all good things must come to an end.

And so began the “playing tourist” phase of this leg, which will be up later tonight or tomorrow, along with general thoughts about the lovely city of Montreal!

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ATHE, Je Suis Ici!

I’m typing this from a bed in a hostel room in a completely different COUNTRY from my last entry. How crazy is that?

Montreal is beautiful, historic, dizzying, crazy, awesome, sexy, weird, hot, classy, and so much more. I’m staying in an awesome hostel room with six beds, and at the moment it’s just myself and Ariana from New Jersey, who’s here for a music festival. We had two other roommates last night: Neil, an aerospace engineer from England who left this morning for Toronto, and Julie, a kick-ass coal miner from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory with the quintessential Canadian accent complete with sayings like “up the ying-yang.” She also left this morning. There is free breakfast, wifi, and lock-boxes here; it’s a few Metro stops away from the conference hotel, the Fairmont, but it’s all I really need for the duration.

ATHE is, of course, ATHE. This morning I went on a culinary tour of Old Montreal which I’ll write about in another post, then I went to lunch with Christine from California and Krysta from New York in the underground city. Then, Debs panel, and after that, back to the hostel for a quick shower and change. I missed the keynote, but came back just in time for the reception, where I reconnected with so many people, some of whom I had not seen for years. Finally, I went to dinner at a Mexican place with Laura from Northwestern and a group of her friends, and even though they’re still out, I got about 3 hours of sleep last night and I have a paper to present tomorrow (yikes!) so I came back to hopefully get a little more work in and a little more rest in.

Stay tuned!

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Home Mode

Nope, I didn’t make ice cream today. But I did help make fake candy bars.

More on that in a minute.

But first…

I think I’ve discovered why I get so bummed spending large amounts of time at home. I love my parents and I miss them so much during the school year, and it’s just so nice to have home-cooked meals and sleep in the bed I grew up sleeping in, but that’s usually where it ends. I don’t usually have too much time to see friends when I am here, and I’m constantly reminded of what I dislike about this place: despite the great kosher restaurants, it’s the “oh how’s your mother doing (fine, thanks, you see her more than I do, how’s yours?),” the “are you still in Baltimore (yeah, I have, and I’ve just been hiding in my parents’ refrigerator for four years),” and in general, the great blanket of blah and boredom that envelops me. Call it languor, call it torpor, but it just kind of invades and sops me up.

This, my friends, is Home Mode Jacob.

Take these last few days as an example. Yes, I’ve been riding high off of seven days of pretty much nonstop action and being Travel Mode Jacob, but I feel like I’ve been asleep more than I’ve been awake in the 72 or so hours I’ve been at my parents’ place. Maybe it’s living with two retirees that has been slowing my pace down, but on Sunday, I slept until 1 PM, then went out with my mother, had lunch, and instead of exercising at the club, laid down on a chaise and woke up several hours later; yesterday, I managed to get up for some early errands with my dad and some geocaching, but after he dropped me off at Walgreens to get some stuff of his own done, I barely had enough energy to walk over to Starbucks before I had to sit for a while and nurse a coffee until I got the strength to walk home; and today, not only did I close my eyes in the car on the way to Rockville with my mom to help out at my sister’s school, but completely passed out asleep on the ride home, and had barely enough energy to exercise for 20 brief minutes before dinner. If I were in Madison, I probably would have been way more active, reading books, doing chores, going to the gym, and eating real meals rather than whatever my parents have in the house. Plus, I’m super nervous about the next two and a half weeks of really living out of a suitcase, when I probably should be more excited than scared.

So maybe that’s one reason why I don’t like coming home too often for too long.

But it’s almost midnight here, and I have to get up at 7:00 tomorrow morning to catch my 10 AM flight to Toronto, Canada, and then onto Montreal for Leg 3: ATHE 2015! Wahoo! It doesn’t feel real, even though I’ve spent months planning and anticipating, especially as I sit here on the floor of my childhood bedroom. Hopefully, I’ll magically wake up in Travel Mode, aka Super Happy And Ready For Anything Mode. Travel Mode Jacob is way more fun than Home Mode Jacob.

But now, time for Sleep Mode Jacob.

A demain!

And even though nobody from South America viewed my blog today, I got a lot of great views from every other continent, so big hellos to North America (Canada and USA), Europe (UK, Norway, Belgium, France, and Poland), Asia (Singapore, Philippines, and India), Africa (Kenya and South Africa), and Oceania (Australia and Vanuatu, my first new country in quite awhile!)